Their Mind on the Money

From bungholes to meatheads, MTV’s history of reacting to economic highs and lows.

By Ira Boudway


The Real World: New York

May 1992

Unemployment: 7.4%

The proto-reality show follows seven Gen Xers living in a SoHo loft, none of whom have a steady income, nor could imagine they’d one day accept a Road Rules challenge.

Beavis and Butt-Head

March 1993

Unemployment: 7.1%

Jobs still scarce, MTV scores a hit with two adolescent cartoon delinquents who sit on the couch, watch music videos, and decide what’s cool and what sucks.


October 2000

Unemployment: 3.9%


October 2000

Unemployment: 3.9%

In the dot-com bubble days, MTV combines celebrity voyeurism and real estate porn in the gaudiest half-hour on TV.

Pimp My Ride

March 2004

Unemployment: 5.6%

My Super Sweet 16

January 2005

Unemployment: 5.4%

The Hills

May 2006

Unemployment: 4.6 %

SoCal decadence reaches new heights with the partially scripted intrigues of the fame-hungry idle rich. Let’s all be frenemies!

50 Cent: The Money and the Power

November 2008

Unemployment: 6.5%

16 and Pregnant

June 2009

Unemployment: 9.4%

With the economy in free-fall, MTV remakes The Hills, minus money and birth control.

Jersey Shore

December 2009

Unemployment: 9.9%

Things could always be worse, America! You could be a drunken, greasy Guido getting punched on a boardwalk. Or Snooki.


October 2012

Unemployment: 7.8%

As the recovery inches along, MTV’s new scripted drama aims to teach millennials that “even in times of economic crisis, life is still best lived in terms of love, laughs, friendship, romance, and fun.”


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